By Gary L. Johnson
Several important American holidays are for the purpose of remembering. Memorial Day is set aside so we can remember our war dead, whereas Veterans Day is for remembering the men and women who served in our nation’s military. A grand remembrance happens every July 4 as we celebrate our nation’s independence. We have religious holidays—Christmas and Easter—to remember the birth of Jesus and his resurrection from the dead.
Yet, Easter is more than a holiday marked with ham dinners and Easter egg hunts. It’s more than a day to fill baskets with candy and churches with people. Easter is a way to live.
Every single day, elders are to live as if it were Easter Sunday. On the morning of the resurrection, the sun rose in the sky, the Son rose from the dead, and hope rose within the hearts of Jesus’ followers. Their problems did not go away, and their persecution did not cease. But within them appeared an unmistakable hope of life after death because Jesus was raised from the dead. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
After Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples began living in a different way. The Holy Spirit gave believers daily strength to live with boldness and faithfulness. Christians did not back down in declaring the good news that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. They shared the good news wherever they went. They were bold in declaring Jesus King of kings and Lord of lords, the hope of the world. As Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
Christians were faithful “even to the point of death” (Revelation 2:10). Believers in the early church were willing to die for their convictions. Untold numbers of believers were martyred by the Romans for simply following Jesus Christ. They were both bold and faithful.
Leaders of Profound Conviction
The question is, are we bold and faithful followers of Jesus? Twenty centuries have passed, but our calling has not changed. Elders especially are to lead by example by living this way. Christians will not readily live courageous and committed lives without seeing the conspicuous, consistent example of elders leading the way. Are we bold and faithful in our leadership, or have we acquiesced into being both cautious and compromised?
Our current culture suppresses our Christian witness. Hollywood, the media, government, employers, even friends and family pressure us to put our testimony, like our smartphones, on silent mode. And as our society becomes increasingly pluralistic spiritually, many label us as “intolerant, right-wing extremists” for wanting to hold to sound, unwavering biblical doctrine and values.
So, then, it is essential that we, as elders, move beyond our mere belief in Jesus Christ to a place of profound conviction. Be bold. The apostle Paul believed in Jesus Christ as his Messiah. Yet Paul was executed not for his beliefs, but for his immoveable convictions.
A modern-day example of this is the martyrdom of 21 Egyptian Christians beheaded by Islamic State militants in early 2015. Like Paul, these brave men were killed because of their convictions that Jesus was both Savior and Lord of their lives, and not just because of their belief in him. When told to renounce Jesus Christ or die, they boldly declared Christ. Being bold in our politically correct culture is becoming far rarer among Christians. First-century boldness is much needed in the 21st century.
Vanguards of Faithfulness
Elders must remain the vanguard of faithfulness. From history, stories are told of ships and planes that gradually drifted off course. The same can happen in the local church. We drift from sound doctrine and gradually move off course from our mission to make disciples of all people groups.
For example, across America, increasing numbers of believers are buying into the progressive Christian movement. Churches and entire denominations are abandoning a high view of Scripture while reinterpreting essential Christian doctrine. For help in understanding this phenomenon, read David Young’s A Grand Illusion: How Progressive Christianity Undermines Biblical Faith (available at renew.org). While historic orthodox Christianity seemingly disappears, elders must remain faithful to sound doctrine. As Paul told Timothy, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).
Easter is not just a holiday. It’s a way to live. Be bold. Stay faithful.
Dr. Gary Johnson served 30 years with Indian Creek Christian Church (The Creek) in Indianapolis, retiring last year. He is a cofounder of e2: effective elders, which he now serves as executive director.